USA Today - Sometimes, a few bags of free dog or cat food and a little time is all it takes to make giving up one's pets unnecessary.
That was the thinking behind the pet food banks that sprang up like oases in the desert when the economy went sour a few years back. The folks who started those operations were rewarded with tales of people, who - laid off from their jobs, down to their last few dollars and on the brink of leaving their pets at a shelter - received some free kibble and days later found work and could pay the rent and keep their pets.
That's how things are supposed to turn out. Not every hard-times story ends that way, of course.
And, there's another, significant chapter of the pet food bank chronicle that hasn't played out exactly as hoped. The happy-ending dream these pet food pantry originators shared was that in a year or two the economy would right itself, the matter of millions of pets surrendered or abandoned for financial reasons would be mostly a dim, awful memory, and food banks would no longer be necessary.
In fact, the situation has worsened. The number of animals landing at shelters and rescues has escalated, and, of course, so have euthanasia rates, as welfare groups struggle to take in and feed the crush of animals. So more and more pet pantries are springing up (or are attempting to spring up); a growing number of shelters are working to find ways to temporarily give free food to pet owners who are in dire financial straits and are moments away from turning in their pets; and food pantries for humans are sometimes stocking pet food as well.
All that still isn't enough. Most pet pantry founders are working harder and longer, and in ways they hadn't anticipated.
One of them is Ann King. She launched the non-profit Save Our Pets Food Bank in Atlanta in 2008, horrified by stories of down-on-their-luck owners making excruciating decisions about their animals.
"Many people out there imagine the pet crisis has passed," she says. "It most certainly has not. It was dire before, and it has gotten worse."
Read more: http://usat.ly/puxik8
Written by Sharon L. Peters
Image via morguefile